Sailing Chandlery RS200 EaSEA Championships
Felixstowe Ferry SC laid on an epic weekend of racing in top-of-the-range conditions for the inaugural RS 200 East and South East Area (EaSEA) Championships, presented by Sailing Chandlery. Apprehension in the boat park on Saturday morning soon turned into massive grins as the fleet got to grips with ripping down the steep east coast waves in gusts of up to 28 knots.
Day 1 – by Andrew Wishart
With the wind forecast to escalate above what everyone apart from “more is always better” Ben Whaley thinks is reasonable to go sailing in, Roger Lewis and the crack race management team from Ferry got the first warning signal off at 1255hrs on the dot. It would be understandable if they just wanted to spend as little time as possible on the start boat as a knot of tide against 22-28 knots of breeze had predictable results.
David Jessop and Alex Ling launched it to lead the opening 3-lap windward-leeward race by some distance at the top, and with the chasing group tightly packed they were able to extend away. But that lead became their undoing as several boats tried to follow them around the pin as opposed the leeward mark at the end of lap one. That allowed RS 200 royalty Will Taylor (Chairman) & Bethan Matthews (Social Secretary & 2022 Person of the Year) to take the bullet followed by Andrew & Nina with Paris & Marta in third. Big thanks on our part to Paris & Marta for notifying us we were going to the wrong mark before proceeding to miss it themselves..!
The name of the game was keeping the water out of the boat upwind and the stick in the sky downwind. A big shout out has to go to the safety team who parked themselves at the gybe point to collect water bottles, snacks and sailors escaping from the boats that didn’t quite manage to negotiate the scariest corner of the course.
Ben Whaley and Lorna Glen joined us for race two after their freshly spliced kicker was undermined by a block exploding on launching. The manufacturer will remain nameless, but Allen’s Head of Marketing Ben Harden, sailing with new fiancé and Felixstowe local Lucy Ellery (congratulations!), will appreciate me mentioning that it wasn’t one of theirs.
There was a familiar sight at the top of the first beat in race 2 as Ben and Lorna popped out of the left in the lead, but they were overhauled by Will & Bethan by the end while Paris and Marta managed the conditions impressively for a lightweight pairing to take third. Streaks of white water and the wind reading on the committee boat confirmed it was indeed now a force 7 so after six laps (and as many capsizes for some) we headed in. The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent sharing stories and technique tips over several shandies and a great curry in the club while the rain lashed the windows and the campers secured alternative accommodation.
Day 2 – by Lorna Glen
After prepping for another big day ahead with Felixstowe Ferry SCs superb cooked breakfasts, Sunday saw the fleet launch and head to a different racing area in front of Bawdsey Manor in the hope of a more protected racing area. But being another breeze on day and with wind against tide, there were still large waves to contend with but today it was set to be two slightly longer laps.
Race 3 got underway and a challenge of who could keep the boat under control and make the most of the waves was to be had. With Ben/Lorna taking the lead round the windward followed by the father son duo of Thomas and Robert Stewart with Will/Bethan third. Similar to Saturday large gains and losses were to be had on the downwinds with any swimming being costly. Leaders Ben/Lorna took the plunge, allowing the Stewarts to fly through to take and hold the lead from Will/Bethan, followed by Ben & Lucy in 3rd.
Race 4 was the same game, but everyone was a bit more used to it by now. Ben/Lorna snuck round the windward first before being overtaken by the Stewarts on the downwind, and rounding leeward with Will/Bethan. The final beat was a test of who could hike the hardest, allowing Ben/Lorna to lead to the finish. Having been on for a second place to follow their bullet the Stewarts must have been gutted to fall victim to a last minute swim on the run, allowing Will/Bethan to take second and consistent Paris/Marta to sneak through and get their third 3rd place of the weekend.
The final race of the day saw a wind decrease which was welcomed by many of the boats, but if anything it did make the racing tighter and a 30 degree right shift on the first upwind left those on the left struggling to remain in contact with the front pack. This was a tight bunch with Paris/Marta leading followed by David/Alex, Andrew/Nina and Will/Bethan flying in from the right at the windward. It was clear that Paris/Marta had saved some energy for this last race as they dominated from start to finish with an impressive win. The battle continued for those behind, but spinnaker pole issues for David/Alex allowed Will/Bethan and Ben/Lorna to overhaul them on the far left on the final as they successfully hunted down more wind and waves to surf.
Following the huge shift and slight wind increase once again, the race committee called it a day after a weekend of battling wind and waves. I believe we can all agree that this race committee and safety team was the best we could have asked for, with their super fast turnarounds and pretty spot on courses - a massive thank you to all those involved in making it such great and safe racing.
The fleet returned to shore for a final pack up and prizegiving in the clubhouse with the overall results leaving Will Taylor/Bethan Matthew in top spot and being crowned EaSEA champions 2023! Huge thank yous must go out to all at Felixstowe for the warm welcome and great racing, as well as tour sponsor Sailing Chandlery for the fab prizes, and not forgetting Andrew Wishart and Cameron Harris for organising such a great event.
With 2 events remaining on the tour, there’s still lots to play for throughout the fleet in the overall tour results!
Round 7: Saturday 2nd September at Shoreham SC
Round 8: 30 September – 1 October at Grafham Water SC